Two local National Historic Sites are joining together in partnership for International Women’s Day 2015. Chiefswood National Historic Site, home of Six Nations poet and performer Pauline Johnson, and Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead, named after the Women’s Institute pioneer who lived there, will be opening their doors on March 8th, and will discuss “Breaking Barriers”.
Focusing on the lives and the work of three remarkable local women – Pauline Johnson, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless, and Dr. Emily Stowe – the exhibit will draw attention to the accomplishments in the fields of Art & Culture, Home Sciences, and Education and Medicine.
Pauline Johnson is a well-known name in the area; Chiefswood National Historic site sits as a testament to the Johnson family and their position in the community during their time. Pauline began writing early on in her life, and her poetry often focused on her European and Six Nations heritage. She wrote Brant, a Memorial Ode about Joseph Brant; the poem was read by William Cockshutt at the unveiling of the Brant Memorial Statue at Victoria Park.
Her most notable works include Flint and Feather, White Wampum, and The Song my Paddle Sings. Johnson was able to earn a living from her writing and performances, which included recitations of her works even as other noted poets of the time read theirs from paper on-stage. She opened the doors for female writers and poets, as well as First Nations artists. She was the first woman other than the Queen, and the first aboriginal Canadian to have her likeness featured on a stamp; an honour which was bestowed in 1961 in celebration of the centenary of her birth.
Adelaide Hunter Hoodless worked on the family farm before her marriage to John Hoodless. Born in St. George, where Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead operates as a National Historic Site, Adelaide became an advocate after the tragic loss of her young son, Jack, which was likely caused by the boy drinking contaminated milk. Adelaide advocated for education for mothers in the home sciences, and published a textbook on the subject, Public School Domestic Science.
Adelaide was one of the driving forces behind the Women’s Institute – an organization for women which focuses on community action, group education, and of course being social with other women in the community! Adelaide’s vision of helping families create healthy, safe homes continues: many programs are offered by schools, municipalities, and private and charitable organizations in food preparation, safe food handling, feeding for babies and infants, and keeping a home and family healthy.
Dr. Emily Stowe was originally from Norfolk County, and began her career as a teacher in Mount Pleasant, Ontario. She moved to Brantford to teach at the Brantford Central School, later becoming its principal – the first woman to become a public school principal in Canada!
When her husband fell ill with tuberculosis, she became interested in studying medicine. Upon application to the Toronto School of Medicine, she was told that women were not welcome to the course. Emily earned her medical degree in the United States and opened a practice in Toronto, where she and medical fellow Jenny Trout eventually were accepted – on the basis of special permission – to the Toronto School of Medicine; the pair became the first female licensed physicians in Canada.
Stowe was an advocate for education for women, the growing acceptance of women in Science (her daughter Augusta became the first woman to earn a medical degree in Canada!), and women’s suffrage.
For more information about these heritage organizations, visit the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead website and Facebook page, and the Chiefswood National Historic Site website and Facebook page.